The Washington Huskies are scheduled to report to campus Sunday, and the 2008 football team will take the practice field for the first time at 3:45 p.m. Monday.
Monday's events will begin at noon with a press conference involving coach Tyrone Willingham, followed by another with sophomore quarterback Jake Locker. Both will be streamed live on the Internet at Gohuskies.com. Other players will also be made available for one-on-one sessions with the media, and I'll pop onto the blog with highlights for those as soon as possible.
Media also will be allowed to watch the initial UW practice, and I'll pop back in with information from that after the Huskies leave the field, at approximately 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, my camp preview story from the Sunday paper moved online oddly -- in bits and pieces -- so here it is again, all in one piece:
Never miss a local story.
The Washington Huskies begin fall camp Monday, marking the start of a football season that could affect the program for many seasons to come.
Last winter, university president Mark Emmert committed to allowing coach Tyrone Willingham to return for a fourth season after going 4-9 in his third. However, Emmert also said that "everyone understands that we need to become more competitive," and that raised the ongoing assumtion that this will be a make-or-break season for the current staff.
Over the off-season, Willingham brought in three new assistants and reeling in the most highly regarded of his four recruiting classes.
At 3:45 p.m. Monday, those newcomers will join the veterans – including 15 returning starters -- as the 2008 Huskies take the field for the first time.
Here are five top items they hope to accomplish over their 21 days of practice leading to the season opener Aug. 30 at Oregon.
1. Improve the defense -- significantly.
Willingham's boldest off-season move was firing longtime assistant Kent Baer, and eventually replacing him with former NFL coordinator Ed Donatell.
Donatell's challenge will be considerable as the Huskies lose at least five starters from the 2007 defense, which finished 103rd among 119 NCAA Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense, 92nd in scoring defense, 89th in rushing defense, and 107th in pass efficiency defense.
Donatell hasn't shared much of his defensive plan publicly. And the Huskies will practice in private again this fall. However, Donatell admits a preference for aggressiveness and is a believer in the 3-4 defense.
2. Build on the potential of QB Jake Locker's freshman season.
Locker enters his sophomore season on the watch lists for NCAA best-quarterback and best-player awards. However, in his only college season so far, 52.7 percent of his passes fell incomplete, and he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14). Those numbers need to improve, and his work in spring practice gave every indication that they will.
Locker also ran for 986 yards, making him not only the top returning rusher on the team, but also in the Pacific-10 Conference.
All optimistic projections for UW assume that Locker will improve on his freshman season and that he will remain healthy.
An injury to Locker is UW's No. 1 disaster scenario, as there are no other quarterbacks on the roster with even one snap of college experience. Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch opens camp second on the depth chart. Highly regarded recruit Dominique Blackman isn't expected to be academically eligible this fall.
3. Hope the new offensive players are skilled enough to overcome inexperience.
The Huskies are similarly young at tailback and receiver. The top returning tailback is sophomore Brandon Johnson who carried 51 times for 196 yards last season. The top returning wide receiver is D'Andre Goodwin, who had six catches.
Coaches believe there is lots of young talent in both areas including Chris Polk, Curtis Shaw, Alvin Logan, Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse and Cody Bruns. However, they must zip through the normal learning curve and produce immediately against a schedule that welcomes them with three ranked teams in the first three weeks: Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma.
4. Coax more production from the young defensive linemen than UW got from the veterans they replace.
Three of Washington's four starting defensive linemen have departed.
That leaves Pac-10 honors candidate DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim surrounded by relatively inexperienced linemen such as Cameron Elisara, Darrion Jones and De'Shon Matthews. DT Craig Noble, one of the most promising incoming freshmen, isn't expected to be academically cleared to play this season.
5. Get healthy and strong.
The off-season may have proved costly as the Huskies suffered injuries to key veterans on both sides of the ball.
Sixth-year center Juan Garcia suffered a foot injury in spring. Since then, his rehabilitation has progressed encouragingly, but no one knows what will happen until he tests it in the violence of the trenches.
Meanwhile, leading tackler E.J. Savannah suffered an off-season arm injury that could linger into camp. And Willingham also has hinted that the linebacker may be among a handful of returnees facing other eligibility questions.
In more general terms, the Huskies will need contributions from younger players, who are generally less physically developed than the upperclassmen they will line up against each Saturday.
And Willingham acknowledged at Pac-10 media day that some of his team's problems in the second half of games last season may have revealed deficits in conditioning and depth.
That can't happen again if this team is to achieve the unspoken magic number of victories that is likely to satisfy Emmert.